How to be Both Interested and Interesting
Dale Carnegie famously wrote: “It is better to be interested than interesting.” And it’s true: Connections are made more through genuine curiosity than impressive credentials. That said, if you’re not at all interesting, people won’t be as responsive to your interest in them. Are you always as interested and as interesting as you could be?
I recently wrote that, if you want to be interesting, you should be a phenomenal questioner. But of course, you’re not always going to be on the receiving end of such interesting questions.
What have you been up to lately? How are things going? How is business? How was your weekend? How have you been?
So here’s a question for you: How interesting are your answers to these mundane questions?
Too often, I hear responses that don’t go anywhere. Good. Fine… One word. Like the answers my 9-year old sons give when I ask them about their day.
Not only do those answers require no effort and say nothing, the implied answer is this: “It’s too much work for me to really think about this question that you ask me every day, and I’m not sure you are truly up for the work required to listen to my genuine answer.”
The response stifles connection and encourages a reciprocally uninteresting response.
What would happen if you were more interesting in your responses? What if, for example, my colleague responded to my question about his weekend by saying: “It was tough. I don’t know why, but I just didn’t have a lot of energy and my family kept getting into conflict. We went to the zoo together, but it rained and it was exhausting. That said, it was good to be together. Thanks for asking. Tell me about your weekend.”
These passing questions come all the time. Yet so often they are met with boring, uninteresting responses. Responding with a commentary about the weather or the traffic is not an interesting answer. In a way, it’s like we’re in auto-pilot with our responses. But why not get more intentional about it and give an authentic, interesting answer to the question? And since you know these mundane questions come up pretty regularly, why not give a few minutes of thought to how you’ll answer them the next time?
You might say that those mundane questions aren’t designed to provoke meaningful responses—that they’re just polite ways of saying hello. That seldom does anyone have the time or capacity to actually stop and engage in a thoughtful personal exchange with their co-worker, the person in the elevator or the person on the sidelines of your son’s soccer match.
Maybe you’re right. It is safer to just let the question pass and go back to doing work or checking your phone. It is more expedient to rush on through the day checking more boxes off your to-do list. But will you be a human doing or a human being?
Yes, it is better to be interested than to be interesting. And yes, it’s easier and more expedient to run in auto-pilot when there’s so much going on. But remember: Every productive relationship is a two-way street. if you’re not interesting, you likely won’t earn the right to be interested.
How are you becoming a more interesting person, one who is genuinely interested in others?